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The History of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1883 when Joshua Plaskitt petitioned the city authorities to establish an engineering school.  The school was called the Baltimore Manual Training School and opened with 60 students in a building on Courtland Street.  In the 1890's the school’s name was changed to the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.  The curriculum was revised and strengthened under the leadership of Dr. Richard Grady (1883-1886) and Lt. John Ford (1886-1890), the first two principals of BPI.  Poly soon became one of the country's outstanding engineering high schools under the leadership of Lt. William R. King (1890-1921), the third principal of the school.

The steady growth of the school population resulted in the school's relocation to North Avenue and Calvert Street in 1913. Under the leadership of Dr. Wilmer Dehuff (1921-1958), the curricular offerings were expanded and many athletic programs and other activities were developed.  In 1952, Poly became the first high school in the Baltimore City school system to racially integrate its student body.

In 1967, under the leadership of Claude Burkert (1958-1969), the school was relocated to its present location at Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane.  During the administration of William Gerardi (1969-1980), the school became co-ed with the admission of women in 1974.  The centennial of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute was celebrated in 1983 during the administration of Zeney Jacobs (1980-1984), followed by Gary Thrift (1984-1985), and John Dohler (1985-1990).

During the 1990-1991 school year, Barbara Stricklin was appointed interim director and became the first woman to lead the school.  Dr. Albert Strickland (1991-1994) and Ian Cohen (1994-2003) followed, developing and expanding student opportunities, especially in the areas of foreign languages, science, writing across the curriculum, science and engineering research, and technology.

Sharon Kanter served as interim director from 2003-2004 during the search for a new Director.  Dr. Barney J. Wilson, Class of 1976, (2003-2010) was selected as the fourth Poly graduate and the first African American to lead the school.  Matthew Woolston served as Interim Director during the 2010-2011 school year and Jacqueline Williams, Class of 1981, the first female alumna to come back to Poly and teach, served as Interim Director during the 2011-2012 school year, while a nationwide search for a new director was conducted.  In May 2012, Jacqueline Williams was named permanent Director of Poly.

Today, Poly offers Baltimore students an excellent college preparatory program through its A and B Courses and the Ingenuity Program which continue to emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Poly's commitment to academic excellence remains unchanged.